China’s rise to power has become one of the most discussed questions in both International Relations Theory (IRT) and Foreign Policy circles. IR scholars have, for many decades, been interested in the concept of power and have studied it from multiple angles. Analyzing different ways of conceptualizing power and dominance in international affairs has been central to contemporary IR schools. Although power has been a core concept of IRT for a long time, the faces and mechanisms of power as it relates to Chinese foreign policy making has reinvigorated and changed the contours of that debate. With the rise of China and other re-emerging or newly emerging powers across the global political arena comes a new visibility for different kinds of encounters between states, particularly between China and other Global South states. These encounters have been present all along, but they are made more visible to IR scholars now because of the increasing influence and impact that rising powers are making in the international system.
This book shows that foreign policy encounters between rising powers and Global South states do not necessarily exhibit the same logics, behaviors, or investment strategies of Euro-American hegemons. Instead, they have distinctive features which require new theoretical frameworks for their analysis – frameworks developed to study Western ‘great power politics’ and the power diffusion mechanisms just do not provide enough explanatory leverage. Shaping the Future of Power probes the type of power mechanisms that build, diffuse, and project China’s power in Africa. The crux of the argument is that it is necessary to take into account the processes of knowledge production, social capital formation, and skills transfers in Chinese foreign policy towards African states to fully understand China’s power building mechanisms. These elements are all crucial for the relational power framework developed in this book to capture both the material aspects and also ideational people-centered aspects to power. By examining China’s investments in human resource development programs for Africa, the book examines a vital, yet under-theorized, aspect of China’s foreign policy making.